Essay / Politics

Whitewasher- The Dan Rather Report

Hugh Hewitt says: On the other hand, it’s not like anyone really believes Rather. More like the collective embarrassment for him will operate to let him fade away with a shred of dignity –a dignity he does not deserve. There is an old-boy network at work. This old-boy network let the hired gals take a hit to protect the old lion. That is the way old boy networks function. Old viewers will let the old boy go on reading yesterday’s blog news between commercials for geriatric products.But I have one question from the back row (I am no journalist): If politics was not the motive, then why did CBS, one of the big three networks, produce such a shoddy piece in a political season?They knew the report would be trouble for the President. They knew people would howl. CBS knows that many people think they “tilt left.” Why wouldn’t they be more cautious, not less? What harm in a delay to get the facts right?Everyone admits that the documents were fakes, pretty bad fakes. Everyone admits there was not a good “chain of possession” established. Everyone knows that the source for the documents was, well, not so great. Why wouldn’t they be more cautious than normal, not less? The logical conclusion, in the absence of any other plausible motive, is that in a political season, politically savvy people played politics. Can I prove this? To what level? Beyond a reasonable doubt? No, I cannot. However, this study, this whitewash, was not a criminal case. People lost their jobs, highly paid jobs, in this case without a trial. It seems to me the facts, as shown by the account, point to only one plausible scenario. Rather and company played politics. There is a complete lack of any other motive that fits the facts.The best explanation would seem unseemly haste to “break a story” and “be first.” Of course, in any news organization that is a temptation that is not always resisted. Such pressure is constant. The question is: does this sort of haste happen a great deal at CBS (and so damn the entire organization) or was it in this case only? If only in this case, then why? Why in this case did CBS over ride the normal checks and balances? What was the motive that tipped the scale in favor of tarnishing the President of the United States in war time with documents that bloggers quickly uncovered as frauds?I do not know if Rather could be convicted in a court of law for a political motive. I do know that serving as anchor of a major newscast is not a right, it is an honor. It does not take iron clad evidence to be stripped of an honor. One should not do it on a whim. One should give the benefit of the doubt, but suppress great doubt in search of legal certainty. Rather is a rich man who either allowed his co-workers to convince him to folly or who tried to take down the President. With such savvy folk, there is almost no chance that a “smoking gun” memo will exist (“TO: Dan RE: Story Please ignore problems. These documents really get that gutless wonder Bush.”)Instead, judicious men, not judges, but just men, must make the best decision that they can not punt behind legalese. They should have stripped Rather of his plush job and title, because they proved that he was seriously in error and that he could have cost the nation its war time leader by his blunder. They all but proved that politics was involved. They owed us their best opinion about the motive. They might have been wrong, but an innocent man would not have suffered. At worst, they would have overestimated Rather and made a fool into a Machiavelli. However, now they have likely made a Machiavelli out to be a dunce. That is dangerous for it leaves Rather with his fangs for as Cronkite proves, he will have the rest of his life to speak from highly paid platforms.Still there is one sphere in which Rather has been found guilty: the American people have, brought our President back to office. Society has judged. They overwhelmingly have learned to distrust the mainstream media. Fewer people will watch the nightly news than ever. Fewer will read the print papers. The mainstream media can whitewash, but cannot hide the fact that CBS is full of dead men’s bones still aimlessly reading a teleprompter.

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